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Syrians Ask Visiting Congresswoman Why US Is Supporting Terrorist Forces


January 26, 2017
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard / AntiWar.com

As much of Washington prepared for the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spent a week on a fact-finding mission in Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut. After hearing directly from the Syrian people she warns: "This regime change war does not serve America's interest, and it certainly isn't in the interest of the Syrian people. The US must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war."

http://original.antiwar.com/Tulsi_Gabbard/2017/01/25/the-syrian-people-desperately-want-peace/



(January 25, 2017) -- "Every place that I went, every person that I spoke to, I asked this question to them. And, without hesitation they said 'there are no moderate rebels. Who are these moderate rebels that people keep speaking of?' Regardless of the names of these groups, the strongest fighting force on the ground in Syria is Al Nusra or Al Qaeda and ISIS. That is a fact."

"The Syrian People Desperately Want Peace"
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard / AntiWar.com

(January 25, 2017) -- As much of Washington prepared for the inauguration of President Donald Trump, I spent last week on a fact-finding mission in Syria and Lebanon to see and hear directly from the Syrian people. Their lives have been consumed by a horrific war that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and forced millions to flee their homeland in search of peace.

It is clear now more than ever: this regime change war does not serve America's interest, and it certainly isn't in the interest of the Syrian people.

I traveled throughout Damascus and Aleppo, listening to Syrians from different parts of the country. I met with displaced families from the eastern part of Aleppo, Raqqah, Zabadani, Latakia, and the outskirts of Damascus. I met Syrian opposition leaders who led protests in 2011, widows and children of men fighting for the government and widows of those fighting against the government.

I met Lebanon's newly-elected President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri, US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Syrian President Assad, Grand Mufti Hassoun, Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, humanitarian workers, academics, college students, small business owners, and more.

Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between "moderate" rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS -- they are all the same. This is a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government. They cry out for the US and other countries to stop supporting those who are destroying Syria and her people.

I heard this message over and over again from those who have suffered and survived unspeakable horrors. They asked that I share their voice with the world; frustrated voices which have not been heard due to the false, one-sided biased reports pushing a narrative that supports this regime change war at the expense of Syrian lives.

I heard testimony about how peaceful protests against the government that began in 2011 were quickly overtaken by Wahhabi jihadist groups like al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) who were funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the United States, and others. They exploited the peaceful protesters, occupied their communities, and killed and tortured Syrians who would not cooperate with them in their fight to overthrow the government.

I met a Muslim girl from Zabadani who was kidnapped, beaten repeatedly, and raped in 2012, when she was just 14 years old, by "rebel groups" who were angry that her father, a sheep herder, would not give them his money. She watched in horror as masked men murdered her father in their living room, emptying their entire magazine of bullets into him.

I met a boy who was kidnapped while walking down the street to buy bread for his family. He was tortured, waterboarded, electrocuted, placed on a cross and whipped, all because he refused to help the "rebels" -- he told them he just wanted to go to school. This is how the "rebels" are treating the Syrian people who do not cooperate with them, or whose religion is not acceptable to them.

Although opposed to the Assad government, the political opposition spoke strongly about their adamant rejection of the use of violence to bring about reforms. They argue that if the Wahhabi jihadists, fueled by foreign governments, are successful in overthrowing the Syrian state, it would destroy Syria and its long history of a secular, pluralist society where people of all religions have lived peacefully side by side.

Although this political opposition continues to seek reforms, they are adamant that as long as foreign governments wage a proxy regime change war against Syria using jihadist terrorist groups, they will stand with the Syrian state as they work peacefully toward a stronger Syria for all Syrians.

Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it. I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there's a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.

I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the US has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists -- directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The US must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The US and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war.

Thank you,
Tulsi





Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard
Returns From Syria with Renewed Calls:
End Regime Change War in Syria Now

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard / AntiWar.com

(January 25, 2017) -- Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) returned to Washington, DC after a week-long visit to Damascus, Aleppo, and Beirut to see and hear firsthand the impact of the war in Syria directly from the Syrian people. She heard stories of suffering, pain, courage and hope from people all across the country.

She met with refugees, Syrian opposition leaders who led protests in 2011, widows and family members of Syrians fighting alongside groups like al-Qaeda, as well as those fighting on the side of the government.

The Congresswoman also met with Lebanon's newly-elected President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri, US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Syrian President Assad, Grand Mufti Hassoun, Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, humanitarian workers, students, small business owners, and more.




Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (a former Army major with the Hawaii National Guard) released
the following statement upon her return:


"My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear: Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America's interest, and it certainly isn't in the interest of the Syrian people.

"As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, 'Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.' I had no answer.

"I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act.

"We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists -- directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

"From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the US has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

"Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it. I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there's a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.

"The US must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The US and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war."

Background:
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) is a twice-deployed combat veteran who has served as the United States Representative for Hawaiʻi's 2nd congressional district since 2013.

As a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard traveled to Lebanon and Syria as part of a delegation led and sponsored by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS)–Ohio. The 7-day trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee, as required by House rules, and was not taxpayer funded.

The trip included visits to Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut from January 14-22, 2017. Other members of the delegation included former Congressman and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and his wife, longtime peace advocates Elie and Bassam Khawam, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's husband, Abraham Williams.

Earlier this year, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R.608), legislation that would prohibit US government funds from being used to support al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups.

In the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment to prohibit the funding and support to CIA backed-Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980's, this bill would stop CIA or other Federal government activities in places like Syria by ensuring US funds are not used to support al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, ISIS, or other terrorist groups working with them.

It would also prohibit the Federal government from funding assistance to countries that are directly or indirectly supporting those terrorist groups.

The bill achieves this by:
1. Making it illegal for any US Federal government funds to be used to provide assistance covered in this bill to terrorists. The assistance covered includes weapons, munitions, weapons platforms, intelligence, logistics, training, and cash.

2. Making it illegal for the US government to provide assistance covered in the bill to any nation that has given or continues to give such assistance to terrorists.

3. Requiring the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine the individual and groups that should be considered terrorists, for the purposes of this bill, by determining: (a) the individuals and groups that are associated with, affiliated with, adherents to or cooperating with al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or ISIS; (b) the countries that are providing assistance covered in this bill to those individuals or groups.

4. Requiring the DNI to review and update the list of countries and groups to which assistance is prohibited every six months, in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, as well as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

5. Requiring the DNI to brief Congress on the determinations.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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